Sennacherib Prism


Image source
Oriental Institute, Chicago
Language: Akkadian
Medium: Clay prism
Dimensions: 38cm high
13.3cm wide at the top
14cm wide at the bottom
the width of the six panels are:
8, 7.6, 7.52, 8, 7.3, 7.7cm
the hole at the top is 2.3cm
the hole at the bottom is 2.5cm
Length: 6 columns
500 lines of writing
Approximate Date: 689 BCE
Dates of Sennacherib's reign: 701–681 BCE
Purchaser: J. H. Breasted for
the Oriental Institute
Seller: Baghdad antiquities dealer
Date of Purchase: winter 1919–20
Ostensible find location: mound at Kuyunjik
(in modern Mosul, Iraq)
Current Location: Oriental Institute
Chicago, Illinois
Inventory Number: A2793

Adapted from Luckenbill (1927:23-27)
1Sennacherib, the great king,
2the mighty king,
king of the world,
king of Assyria,

3king of the four quarters,
the wise shepherd,

4favorite of the great gods,
guardian of right,

5lover of justice,
who lends support,

6who comes to the aid of the destitute,
who performs pious acts,

7perfect hero,
mighty man,

8first among all princes,
the powerful one who consumes
9the insubmissive,
who strikes the wicked with the thunderbolt.
10The god Assur, the great mountain, an unrivaled kinship 11has entrusted to me, and above all those 12who dwell in palaces, has made my weapons powerful. 13From the upper sea of the setting sun 14to the lower sea of the rising sun, 15he has brought the black-headed people in submission at my feet. 16And mighty kings feared my warfare, 17leaving their homes and 18flying alone, like the sidinnu, the bird of the cave, 19 to some inaccessible place.
20In my first campaign I accomplished the defeat of Merodach-baladan, 21king of Babylonia, together with the army of Elam, 22his ally, on the plain of Kish. 23In the midst of that battle he deserted his camp, 24 and he escaped alone, so he saved his own life. 25 The chariots, horses, wagons, mules, 26 which he left behind at the beginning of the battle 27my hands siezed. Into his palace, which is in 28Babylon, I entered jubilantly. 29I opened his treasure-house: gold, silver, vessels of god and silver, 30precious stones of every name, goods and property 31 without limit, heavy tribute, his harem, 32 courtiers and officials, singers—male and 33 female—all his artisans, 34as many as there were, his palace servants 35 I brought out, and I counted as spoil. In the might of Assur 36my lord, seventy-five of his strong walled cities 37of Chaldea, and 420 small cities 38of their area I surrounded, I conquered, I carried off their spoil. 39The Arabs, Arameans, and Chaldeans 40who were in Erech, Nippur, Kish, Harsagkalamma, 41Kutha and Sippar, together with the citizens, 42 the rebels I brought out and counted as booty.
43On my return, the Tu'muna, 44Rihihu, Yadakku, Ubudu, 45Kibrê, Malahu, Gurumu, 46Ubulu, Damunu, Gambulu, 47Hindaru, Ru'ûa, Bukudu, 48Hamrânu, Hagarânu, Nabatu, 49Li'tâu, Arameans who were not submissive— 50I conquered all of them. 208,000 people, great and small, 51male and female, horses, mules, asses, 52camels, cattle and sheep, without number— 53a heavy booty—I carried off to Assyria.
54In the course of my campaign, I received from Nabû-bêl-shumâte, 55governor of the city of Hararate: gold silver, great musukkani-trees, 56asses, camels, cattle, and sheep 57as his onerous contribution. The warriors of 58Hirimme, wicked enemies, I cut down with the sword. 59 No one escaped. Their corpses 60I hung on stakes, surrounding the city (with them). 61That district I reorganized: one ox, 62ten lambs, ten homers of wine, twenty homers of dates, 63its choicest, for the gods of Assyria, 64my lords, I established for all time.
65In my second campaign, Assur, my lord, encouraged me, and 66against the land of the Kassites and the land of the Yasubigallai, 67who from of old had not been submissive to the kings, my ancestors, 68I marched. In the midst of the high mountains 69 I rode on horseback where the terrain was difficult, 70and had my chariot drawn up with ropes: 71where it became too steep, I clambered up on foot like the wild-ox. 72The cities of Bît-Kilamzah, Hardishpi, 73and Bît-Kubatti, their strong, walled cities 74I besieged, I captured. People, horses, 75 mules, asses, cattle, and sheep, 76 I brought out from their midst and counted as booty. 77And their small cities, which were beyond numbering, 78I destroyed, I devastated, and I turned into ruins. The houses of the steppe, (namely) the tents, 79in which they lived, I set on fire and 80turned them into flames. I turned round, and 81made that Bît-Kilamzah into a fortress— 82I made its walls stronger than they had ever been before—

Merodach-baladan ruled Babylon in 722-710, 703-702 BCE (see 2 Kings 20:12 and Isaiah 39:1). He was forced to flee Babylon by Sargon of Assyria (710-703), but briefly regained the throne until he was forced to flee again by Sennacherib (as noted here). He is also called Berodach-baladan in 2 Kings 20:12; 2 Chr. 20:31.
Elam was a kingdom in the region of modern Iran, on the north end of the Persian Gulf. The Bible identifies Elamite archers as mercenaries for the Assyrians and Babylonians (Isaiah 22:6; Jeremiah 49:35).
Kish was located to the southeast of Babylon and originally was a city-state.
Assur was the patron deity of the city of Assur and the Assyrian empire. He was identified especially with war and royalty, and as head of the Assyrian pantheon, he took on some of the characteristics of the earlier Babylonian deity Enlil.
Kassites were an ancient people from western Iran, who at one time had ruled Babylon.

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Breasted, James H. The Oriental Institute. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1933.
Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis. Studies in Biblical Theology 2/3. London: SCM, 1967.
Clements, R. E. Isaiah and the Deliverance of Jerusalem: A Study of the Interpretation of Prophecy in the Old Testament. JSOT Supplements 13. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1980.
Grayson, A. Kirk. "Sennacherib." In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 5.1088-89. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Luckenbill, Daniel David. The Annals of Sennacherib. Oriental Institute Publications 2. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1924.
Luckenbill, Daniel David. Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Vol. 2: Historical Records of Assyria from Sargon to the End. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1927.
Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq . 2nd ed. New York: Viking Penguin, 1980.
Saggs, H. W. F. "The Assyrians." In Peoples of Old Testament Times, 156-78. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.
Saggs, H. W. F. Civilization Before Greece and Rome. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989.

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Last Modified: 28 June 2004